Thursday, March 31, 2011

Getting acquainted with the Google +1 Button

I've been checking out Google's +1 button today, as time permits. I can definitely see the potential for it. Compared to the FB "Like" button, which goes into a closed network that only benefits members, +1 has the potential to benefit your social circle and the public at large.

For now, the feature is experimental, so only a small number of users are able to view and use it. For the moment, you can like all day and not get a recommendation from any of your friends. As with any new service that relies on others to adopt, it's no fun until everybody is on it.

I hate using buzzwords, yet +1 is a dynamic way of curating content. Once more people get on it, the results will have much better context, relying less on SEO than peer recommendations.

I can't help but wonder what benefit there would be in becoming a "super seeker"? Until people add +1 buttons to their websites, searches are all there is to the service.

I'll give it a fair shake. I like the concept.

Learning about new updates to Blogger

These new updates are Tumblr+1 when they roll out fully.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Experimenting with Blogger to Buzz to Twitter

Trying to figure out if it's better than Blogger to Twitter to Buzz. Geek stuff.

I WAS going to move my blog back to Blogger from Wordpress, but

As it turns out, there is no easy way to import all my posts. The tools I found are outdated, or just didn't work.

But, Dewitt Clinton had a great idea to use Blogger as a micro blog. This goes to feedburner, which then tweets your title with a link.

Upshot? An accessible archive of tweets. Plus, the Android app for Blogger records your location.

I'm curious if the location info transfers through RSS to Twitter and Google Buzz? Will find out shortly.

I get caught up in getting caught up.

It's easy to postpone necessary things like exercise, sleep, eating right. Get ahead now so you can fall apart later.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Former Mexican Prez Vicente Fox: We're at War With Drug Cartels

Exploring Orkut

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Orkut Logo 2[/caption]

Recently, I've been posting to and exploring Orkut, a social network created by Google. Orkut is popular in other countries; but, it never really caught on in the United States. Facebook has eclipsed Orkut with their huge rise in popularity.

I find Orkut fascinating because of how easy the service makes it so you can choose who can see your posts. While the process of sorting your friends into groups is roughly the same as on Facebook, Orkut makes the process LOOK easier. I recognize the group feature of Orkut within Google Buzz, except that Buzz has a tighter integration with your contacts. Orkut almost seems to live outside of Google.

Some major disadvantages I find, besides not having anybody I know on Orkut, is the lack of ways to add stuff to your Scrapbook. A Scrapbook is the equivalent of the Facebook Wall. Except for Youtube and Blogger, people aren't bending over backwards to add an Orkut button to their content. It also appears that businesses aren't even bothering to set up profiles in Orkut.

That last one can be a benefit. I haven't found an Orkut equivalent of a Facebook Page. That alone cuts back on the amount of stuff that shows up on your Scrapbook.

Another difference that just came to mind is that Orkut does not have a messaging separate from the Scrapbook. If you want to send a private message, you can send a private message through the Scrapbook, like on Buzz.

Orkut does provide a chat feature, which basically borrows Google Talk. This is good in that it lets you connect with others who aren't on Orkut through text, voice, or video chat.

When it comes down to it, a lot of what makes Orkut distinct is mirrored through Google Buzz, the difference being that Buzz has wider adoption in the U.S. In addition, Google Buzz has a much better mobile interface than Orkut. The mobile version of Orkut only allows you to post on others' Scrapbooks; except for photos, posting on your own Scrapbook requires a circuitous process.

I'm not really expecting disaffected Facebook users to start flocking over to Orkut anytime soon. It's a totally different vibe. For now, I'll keep poking around Orkut as time permits.

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South Texas Democrats Placating Their Machines

The Texas Legislature recently passed SB 14, which has been dubbed the Voter ID bill. Unlike Congress, the Texas Legislature doesn't name bills, they simply go buy number. In any case, the Democratic Party is pulling out all the stops to try to frame the bill as racist, extreme, and costly. Most significantly are South Texas Democrats of the Rio Grande Valley who benefit from voter fraud to turn out the vote.

I'm not saying that South Texas Democrats intentionally go out and seek to perpetrate fraud; I do mean that the South Texas political machines hold them captives. For this reason, they must come out and wholeheartedly oppose any legislation that seeks to limit election fraud. Those who profit from fraud wholly expect them to do so, or else.

It's amusing that one of the arguments made is that Republicans, who have been pushing for some form of voter ID for years, have not presented a single case of voter impersonation in passing their bill. Who in their right mind would admit that they organized in or participated in voter fraud? It's a gravy train for both the organizer and the hired voter. Testifying that you are involved in voter fraud would result in making you instantly unhireable by the many campaigns that are forced to use politiqueras to turn out the vote.

Just like there are several of our South Texas elected officials who are conservative at heart, but run as Democrats because that's how the game is played; most of them are privately opposed to fraud. But, they are afraid to come out and rail against voter fraud because it's how the game is played. Saying you are against it is saying you aren't playing the game, giving your opponent all the advantage to leverage the cheaters against you.

You'll see the press releases come out stating how the Voter ID bill disenfranchises the elderly and the ignorant. It's all rote form to placate the political machines that got them elected. Secretly, they are happy Voter ID passed because it takes a monkey off their backs. Our part of the state is usually one of the last to catch up on trends; in this case, honest elections are a trend that have been actively kept away from the region.

So what can the Democrats do to help the "disenfranchised"? I would suggest finding them and paying for their voter IDs. If the party does not organize fund raisers to help voters acquire voter identification before the next elections, you'll know it was all straw man arguments. Wait and see.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Thoughts on AT&T Purchase of T-Mobile

My initial reaction to AT&T's purchase of T-Mobile is one of concern. This has very little to do with the technology and everything to do with company culture. I am very happy with T-Mobile mainly because of their customer service and pricing. I used to work for T-Mobile in their customer care department years ago. I can tell you that they have something good going on there. 

Let's start off by clarifying that the buyout is not all gloom and doom. It actually helps out both customers of AT&T and T-Mobile. Both companies use GSM, so they are technologically compatible. The only thing that separates them are the frequencies they use, and not much beyond that. Plenty of people have jailbroken iPhones running on the T-Mobile network. You can currently buy unlocked GSM phones that will run on any GSM network provided you have a SIM card.

From experience, I can tell you that AT&T has better rural coverage than T-Mobile. When T-Mobile customers roam, they hop on to AT&T towers. Most services work while roaming, except network-centric features like the free mobile to mobile calling. While you are roaming, those calls are straight anytime minutes. So, this is a win for T-Mobile customers.

The doubling of frequencies and availability of network capacity is a definite win for customers of both companies. Where I have issues is that I'm a big fan of T-Mobile customer service. When I worked there, they treated us very well. Of course, they expected us to treat our customers well too. At the end of the day, many of my co-workers were not eager to leave as you see in other companies. They would stick around for another hour or two. In short, T-mobile has a great company culture that comes through in what they do.

Do you remember T-Mobile's Get More campaign? That campaign is gone; but the spirit lives on. T-Mobile has always strived to give customers more minutes and features at a lower cost. In addition, they have always aimed at providing handsets with the greatest features. Of course, this has not always translated into the biggest or fastest network until their recent drive to HSPA+.

I'll admit that I've never been an AT&T or Cingular mobile customer. I've been a Sprint customer, and I've met with engineers from Nextel, a company Sprint acquired. In fact, I'm currently a simultaneous customer of Boost Mobile and T-Mobile.

When I was with Sprint, I hated calling customer service. Each rep would tell me something different concerning my account. They would always nickel and dimed me into huge bills. I would always have to call two or three times to sort things out. When Sprint acquired Nextel, Sprint's company culture simply crushed what was otherwise a growing business. My engineer friends would show me maps of their drives looking for dead spots when they were just Nextel. They would tweak their towers to maximize coverage. Once Sprint acquired them, they had to standardize all towers, even if it meant poor reception in some areas.

What Sprint did to Nextel network coverage, they worsened through their customer service. 
This is my concern for my own T-Mobile experience. I worry that AT&T's company culture will carry over to my own mobile experience. With T-Mobile, I was willing to do with a little less because they treat me right. This is really important when it comes to data products.

I mentioned earlier that I have service with TMO and Boost. I'm using Boost for my voice service and the walkie-talkie feature. I have no problem using voice service with the lowest bidder. Boost currently has an offer where your bill goes down to $35/mo for unlimited voice/text/data. I use my T-mobile phone on the lowest voice plan and have unlimited data. I can live without reliable voice; data is my livelihood.

With Boost, the consensus is that they have terrible customer service. Fortunately, their handsets are very affordable. I think, rather than troubleshoot a problem, I would buy a new handset, move the SIM card, and go about my business. Most of what I need to do can be done on their website.

Data is a different issue. If you have a data problem, you MUST call customer care. So, in those rare instances where I've had problems with my data service, I have had no reservations calling T-Mobile for help. For this reason, I would have stayed with T-Mobile forever. I worry that my experience will decline after the acquisition like the experiences of Nextel customers after Sprint. I don't think AT&T will try to instill T-Mobile customer care standards in their own people. To the victor go the spoils, after all.

Having dealt with AT&T for their other services, I can't say that I've been mistreated. They have been helpful; but it always seems like I'm just a number to them. T-Mobile practices "one and done"; they aim to limit your need to ask for help to one phone call. In other words, they want to ensure your request is fulfilled by the end of the phone call. If it isn't, that rep is charged with following through to take care of the problem for you. 
If, and this is a big IF, my customer service experience deteriorates, it seems I'm running out of options on where to take my service. I think AT&T will do OK, perhaps not as magical as T-Mobile. But, IF things get bad, I'm definitely not going to Sprint. I guess that just leaves Verizon. But, I don't think we'll get to that point, right? I think the technological benefits will likely outweigh the plain vanilla customer care experience. 
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Friday, March 11, 2011

It's All Deadlines

Upon arrival in Austin, I immediately made my way to the office. In my anticipation and planning of the Social Media in Disaster and War event, I did not realize how close the date is to the state legislature's bill filing deadline. Our office is working to get our last bills in; we were receiving copies of our bills as late as 8pm.
Social Media Clubhouse is geared up to start with the coverage of SXSWi. That means I should get as much information about what is happening in Austin for today's livestream.
Then, of course, there is the mini-conference at the capitol. We need to prepare with snacks and drinks.
I expect we will also have some kind of South Texas meetup somewhere.
Lots of action this weekend. I expect to have a good time. So, I guess I'll get started.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Self-inflicted Stuff

Here I am on the Greyhound bus headed to Austin. I dozed for a couple minutes; but after a pit stop in Falfurrias, Texas, I'm awake again.
I was sleepy before departing McAllen. Not sure what's keeping me up.
Since I'm awake anyway, I'm thinking about what I'm doing. I'm an easy going guy. Ask anybody, they'll tell you I rarely get my feathers ruffled.
Years ago, somebody told me I'm a type A personality. I thought, "bullshit". I'm not very competitive, don't have a natural sense of urgency, and don't feel compelled to boss people around.
Looking back at the time since then, I look at where I am now and what I have taken on. Wow, maybe I am type A-ish.
I think my skepticism came from the fact that I enjoy what I do. It's strange that I'm awake, anticipating the coming days. I have projects awaiting.
It's self inflicted, mind you. I could just get a job and blend in; but, I can't seem to do it. Oh, well. Let's see where this road goes.
In the meantime, I need to wait for sleep to sneak up on me so I don't drag all weekend. More self-infliction. Ha!

Monday, March 07, 2011

SXSW Launches

I'm starting to see the trickle of applications that are being
announced for SXSW. So far I am seeing apps for iOS, not for Android.

I know the iPhone has a die-hard fan base; but come on. Android
outnumbers them.

Being left out in the cold like this by developers only means one
thing; when your app comes to Android, it better be able to get me a
beer from the fridge. Otherwise, I have no use for it.

Will Beluga make it?

When I first learned about Beluga, I was excited. It seems like a good concept. It's clean and easy to use; but, I could never find anybody willing to give it a try.

It is understandable, to some degree. Nobody wants yet another login, app, social network.

I thought perhaps SXSW would be the test that would make or break Beluga. But, Facebook bought them out, which is a kiss of death.

It's not just Facebook; Google buys companies and assimilates them. Facebook simply lays acquisitions to pasture.

I would have loved to put Beluga to the test; but there is no point now.

When it comes down to it, I realize that Google Buzz pretty much does the same thing as what made Beluga interesting to me: private group messaging and location awareness.

As it turns out, just added location and photo sharing too. So, there are alternatives.

The mess that is content distribution

One of the problems that I have, which I realize only a small percentage of people have, is getting content out reliably and consistently.

Each platform has its advantages and disadvantages. Twitter is simple, easy, and viewable by the world.
Facebook has a bigger "potential" audience, not all 500 million users follow me. Small detail.

My blog is running Wordpress. It's OK; but, I'm becoming more and more mobile, which can be a hindrance.

I would like to rely on Posterous to fill the mobile gap; BUT, how the hech are they making money. I got burned by Utterli going under and taking my content with them. I'd rather trust a company that I know is making money.

Going back to Twitter, though they're not making money, tweets are ethereal anyway.
Video is another problem. Youtube has the big audience; but I can't livestream. There is also the issue of posting videos less than 10 minutes. Yes, they've raised the time limit; but other services have not updated their scripts to match.

When it comes to audio, I like Blogtalkradio; but, there is the scheduling issue. Cinchcast is good to avoid scheduling problems; but, you can't upload audio or take callers.

In short, there are a lot of different mediums I enjoy using. The problem is that I have to jump from service to service to accomplish the things that I want to accomplish at that time.

Then this leads to another problem; if I have the time to sit at a computer to put together all the bits and pieces of content into one single outlet, then I would not have bothered using any of the other services. I could have just produced things a bit better and uploaded them to my blog.

Consequently, my stuff is scattered everywhere. Theoretically, they reach out to different audiences; but, they're all me. I try to automate and link as many accounts as I can to make distribution easier; but, it can quickly become a mess.

I'm almost tempted to move out of Wordpress; but, there are all those old links. Maybe I ought to just rip off the bandage.

In the end, my presence on the web is a mess.